Preview: All The
Way Home

Playwright Ayub Khan-Din tells Kevin Bourke why he’s glad to be back in Salford

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Serendipity, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is “the occurrence of events in a happy or beneficial way”, a description that certainly fits the lead-up to the world premiere of All The Way Home by Ayub Khan-Din.

A few years ago, the Salford-born writer of the play then hit film East Is East had written a new play, inspired by a gathering of his family and a sibling’s death, for the Royal Court in London. The plan was to tour it regionally but at the time most of the regional theatres’ meagre resources had already been committed to touring another new play,

Rafta Rafta, an Anglo-Indian adaptation of Bill Naughton’s All In Good Time by one Ayub Khan-Din. So it was put on hold. By chance, award-winning director Mark Babych came across the new work and became an enthusiastic advocate.

“I’d gone down to the Royal Court for a meeting on another matter and I’d always liked Ayub’s work so was given the play just to read. I couldn’t understand why no one had done it,” Babych marvels. “It was completely my territory and a story that I was very interested to tell and I was only sorry that Ayub wasn’t able to do it when I was at Bolton.”

During Babych’s hugely successful ten years as artistic director of Bolton Octagon, the theatre had actually co-produced a tour of East Is East but, curiously, the pair had never met until they started an e-mail correspondence about All The Way Home. Babych then persuaded another fan, Robert Robson at the Lowry, to put on a reading for an invited audience and subsequently the Library Theatre Company came on board to collaborate with the Lowry. Khan-Din meanwhile, realising that the play needed another beat, substantially revised it.

“The Lowry is five minutes walk away from the streets I grew up on,” laughs Khan-Din in the midst of rehearsals that he’s flown in from his current home in Spain to observe.

There’s a strong sense of family, community and identity running through it

“I’ve also got connections with the Library Theatre from being in Manchester Youth Theatre as well as performing in that theatre with Tara Arts during my days as an actor. So it’s a perfect homecoming and a great bonus that this play really is coming all the way home now after its long journey.”

Like a lot of Khan-Din’s work, there’s a strong sense of family, community and identity running through it.

“It’s nothing I set out to do, it just happens,” he claims. “This play is semi-autobiographical, like a lot of my work, but my own family now understand that what I’m using is emotional memory rather than the day-to-day details of what we do. Anything else would just be wrong. I’m using elements of what happened as an older sibling was dying, when
I was coming to Manchester a lot and it seemed that the world my family and I lived in was incredibly heightened.

“If people started to bicker that would turn into an argument about things that happened in the past. It suddenly dawned on me that it would be great to write a play about a group of siblings who, because of the demise of an older brother, were forced for the first time to look at their relationships with each other, to analyse their own lives, where they’d been and where they were going to go from here.”

The significance of hosting the premiere in his hometown is not lost on Khan-Din.

“At the time this is set, early in the 1980s, the regeneration of Salford means they’re pulling down the terraced houses very soon, so it’s almost like the death and regeneration of this Salford family along with the environment they live in,” he says.

“Now, the idea that it might have had its world premiere anywhere other than in the north seems ridiculous.”

All The Way Home, 3-15 October, The Lowry, Salford

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